I attended the funeral of my friend’s father on Friday, the last day of January, in New York City. He passed away after surviving dialysis, heart complications, three marriages, and the loss of his twin. He lived life on his terms (which can be interpreted in multiple ways depending on your position) and had the distinction of cultivating close friendships, some of whom spoke at his funeral.
When someone who’s touched your life passes away – life slows down and shrink-wraps you. Staying close to what is familiar is a protective mechanism against anything less significant gaining access to your being. Without available space, what seemed important yesterday fades in brilliance like an aging photograph. That’s because when death enters the world of the living, the insignificant includes almost everything.
Even when expected, death is a shock to the system. The finality of this reality is difficult to process or make sense of. The once solid ground you (thought you) stood on is riddled with seismic faults that produce a vertigo-like sensation bordering on queasiness. What happened? Where did they go? What does this mean going forward? This is (or can be) a shaking to the core that leaves one wondering.
The thing about death is it lays you bare. Defenses that once worked, even working overtime now, are inadequate for the task to which they have been assigned. We run from death because we fail to understand its power. What if we instead looked a bit closer, saw it in action, held the hand of a dying loved one? What if we stretched past our fear and pain and allowed that power to touch us in places we didn’t know we had? We didn’t know we could go.
The thing about death is a new world opens when we let it in. It’s a world we’ve skirted the perimeters of superficially. It’s a world where we act less from ego and more from heart, where we care more about people than we do about things, where we may grow into the potential our human status has allowed and afforded us. This I share with compassion as the road is not a painless one, but one worth the wear on your traveling shoes and the time it takes to get there.